Match Preview | City vs. Charlton Athletic
Only three other sides in the Championship can say that they, like the Bluebirds, have restarted action with back-to-back wins: third-placed Brentford, Play-Off hopefuls Derby County and Tuesday evening’s visitors to Cardiff City Stadium, Charlton Athletic.
Charlton are arguably the outlier in that group of four, with many predicting difficulties for the South-East Londoners. Discernibly, this was due not only to their precarious league position, but also the decision to refrain from restarting made by top-goal scorer Lyle Taylor, as well as on loan Birmingham midfielder David Davis and veteran full-back, Chris Solly.
But Lee Bowyer’s side have given themselves a real chance of surviving the dreaded drop, with six points and two clean sheets in the past eleven days. They returned to action with a 1-0 win at Hull City, before a 1-0 home win in Saturday’s London-derby with Queens Park Rangers at The Valley that moved them into 18th spot in the division and three points clear of the relegation zone.
Back-to-back victories since the restart will have come as a huge tonic to the Addicks who, despite a terrific start to the season, have endured some terrible patches over the course of 2019/20.
Newly promoted Athletic won four out of their opening seven matches back in August 2019, drawing the remaining three. But prior to restart they’d only recorded six further victories since then, failing to record a single point between mid-October and mid-December. Wins were sporadic at best, with no real trends of form to note.
Ones to watch
It must be said that injuries and suspensions hurt Charlton badly at times earlier on in this campaign, impeding their progress following a return to the second tier of English football. In addition, two of their star men from earlier in the season didn’t extend their loan spells; Jonathan Leko returned to West Bromwich Albion, whilst Chelsea man Connor Gallagher opted for a spell at Swansea City instead (interestingly, both men were on the score sheet against City in November’s 2-2 draw).
Charlton’s stand out player this season has been Lyle Taylor, though the 30-year-old opted against returning to training earlier this month through fear of injury ahead of an anticipated lucrative close season move away from The Valley. His 11 goals this term, in addition to erstwhile Addick Leko’s five are not easily replaced, though striker Macauley Bonne with eight to his name thus far will be leaned upon to assist his side in their battle against the drop. Tomer Hemed, formerly of Brighton & Hove Albion, started against QPR on the weekend and is another who can find the net when needed (although is yet to register in 15 league appearances).
Veteran former-Swansea midfielder Darren Pratley scored Charlton’s winner on the weekend, whilst 93-time-capped Irish international Aiden McGeady is capable of creating something out of nothing from a midfield berth. Elsewhere, Bluebirds fans will remember defenders Deji Oshilaja and Adam Matthews, whilst being aware of centre-half Tom Lockyer, now a seven-time capped Welsh international.
In the hotseat
Lee Bowyer enjoyed a solid Premier League career with the likes of Leeds United and Newcastle United, having begun his football path with Charlton Athletic in 1994.
Bowyer made close to 500 professional appearances and scored 68 times, prior to hanging up his boots following a spell at Ipswich Town during the 2011/12 season. He also earned a senior England cap during a fine playing career, which came under Sven Göran Eriksson in a 2002 friendly with Portugal.
The Canning Town man began coaching at Watford in 2015, before returning to Charlton and eventually becoming Karl Robinson’s assistant at The Valley in 2017. He was appointed caretaker manager following Robinson’s departure in March 2018, before taking the role on a permanent basis early the following season.
Charlton were promoted via the League One Play-Offs at the end of Bowyer’s first campaign in charge, beating Sunderland at Wembley for a return to the second tier at the end of a three-year absence. Despite some uncertainty as to whether he would continue in the role last summer, the Charlton boss continued this term and signed a new three-year deal in January 2020.